Welkom! Bienvenu! Willkommen! Allow us to greet you in several of the many tongues of Belgium on the eve of Portland's annual Cheers to Belgian Beers Festival. Portland has many beer festivals, but this one is special, featuring 50 local breweries each making a Belgian ale using a yeast strain determined by dart toss. It's always a great event—dubbel-y so if you pregame appropriately.
For a pre-festival meal, you can't do better than Steak Frites PDX (Southeast 28th Avenue and Ankeny Street, facebook.com/steakfritesportland). The Franco-Belgo cart serves only hot piles of starch and protein to be dipped in five aiolis ($8.50). Go for the teres major, a poor man's filet mignon taken from the long, thin shoulder muscle. Four slices come medium-well and thick as a novella, tucked into a pile of pub fries.
Oh, you'd prefer something lighter? Too bad! In Belgium, the leanest meal available is smoked horse meat. You can't get away with that here, so it's over to Bazi Bierbrasserie (1522 SE 32nd Ave., 234-8888, bazipdx.com) for frites, stoemp (mashed potatoes) and either a St. Bernardus dubbel on draft or one of the bar's many local beers made in the Belgian style.
Don't want to drink until you arrive at the festival? Head up Hawthorne to the Waffle Window (3610 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 971-255-0501, wafflewindow.com; there's also a location on Northeast Alberta Street) for an authentic Liege waffle made with leavened dough and pearl sugar. They have toppings, but you don't need them—just get the plain and chewy "walking waffle" to go.
What's that, you're on the west side? Well, you're in luck, because a very serious Belgian beer bar just opened in the Alphabet District. The Abbey Bar (716 NW 21st Ave., 222-1593, theabbeybar.com) has three refrigerated cases storing hundreds of bottles at different temperatures, plus six taps served in a bewildering variety of stemware. Most drafts are imported and priced up to $5 per half-pint, but the frugal will spot a local saison or grab a bargain Old Rasputin in the coolers. The Abbey's interior is spartan, but the patio is a pleasant place to melt into a deceptively alcoholic Pfriem, a sunny Houblon Chouffe or a goofball trans-Atlantic brewing collaboration.
You're on the west side and you don't want to drink before the festival? Swing by downtown's Leonidas Chocolates (607 SW Washington St., 224-9247). The high-end, Brussels-based chocolatier is basically the See's of Belgium, which means it sells excellent chocolate much cheaper than cocoa boutiques. Stuff a box in your bag—you're going to want them at the end of the night.
GO: The Cheers to Belgian Beers Festival is at Metalcraft Fabrication, 723 N Tillamook St., on Friday (5-9 pm) and Saturday (noon-8 pm), May 30-31. Free admission; $15 for a stemmed glass and five taste tickets, which are required to drink. Additional tastes $1. 21+. Visit oregoncraftbeer.org/ctbb for more information.